Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Yesterday, the Missus and I spent a little time at IKEA, wandering around the aisles of exotically named furnishings and household doodads.  But before we could do any serious shopping for that wonderful Swedish FÜKKENSTÖFF, we needed to fortify ourselves... so we stopped in at the store’s restaurant for some gravlax and meatballs.

Swedish meatballs, or as they are referred to in Sweden, “meatballs,” are often served with a splorp of lingonberry preserves.  After a hearty meal, it is traditional to retire to the toaletten, where freshly created “lingon logs” may be dropped off at the pool.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were sitting and enjoying our tasty svensk måltid when we saw a little girl - probably all of three years old - amusing herself by straightening up the chairs in what appeared to be a seating area for children.  There was a flat-screen television set mounted on the wall there, low to the ground.  After a few minutes, the Missus said, “Look at that,” inclining her chin in the direction of the teevee, where the girl was busily swiping her finger on the words displayed on the screen.

It was pretty obvious what was going on. Here was a child of the Digital Age, one who was likely more familiar with using an iPad and similar Ars Electronica at her tender age than anything made out of dead trees.  If it was flat and electronic, it just had to be a giant iPad!  She knew exactly where the controls were, too: When the screen failed to respond to her finger-swipes, she reached around the side and began mashing the input buttons in an attempt to reboot the device.

I suppose this is the future: Everything will be all Touchy-Screeny, and woe unto those who do not know how to use the interface.  We’ll all be like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, waving our hands around, communicating via ass-holograph... and a little child shall lead us.

The whole episode reminded us of a recent Adventure in Elissonian Stupidity.  A few weeks ago I had been sitting in our family room, looking at some photos on one of our many electronickal devices.  At some point I observed, frustratedly, that the screen was not responding to my finger-swipey attempts to move from one image to the next... at which point both the Missus and the Mistress of Sarcasm pointedly reminded me that I was using the Mistress’s MacBook Air, not my iPad.  Derp!

But that’s OK.  At least I know what the hell an iPad is.  Not all us Old Guys can say that.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Steak and Scotch in the Sukkah
The boys enjoy Meat and Malt in the Mishkan. [Photo ©2013 Kissed with Light Photography, used with permission.]

This Tuesday just past afforded me and a few of the guys an opportunity to enjoy a few wee drams and some Tasty Meatstuffs.  Yes - it was our annual “Steak in the Sukkah, Tipple in the Tabernacle” Men’s Club event.

It’s hard to argue over the merits of a Black Angus 20-ounce bone-in ribeye.  Kosher, no less!  Mine was done to a perfect medium-rare, and while the green salad and baked potato that kept it company on the plate were not especially fancy, they were just right.

And then there was the single-malt Scotch.  Six of ’em, with flavor profiles ranging to mellow caramel to full on peat and smoke.

Scotch Selections of 2013
Six - count ’em! - six kinds of Scotchy Goodness.  [Photo ©2013 Kissed with Light Photography, used with permission.]

Surprisingly, there were leftovers.  (Of Scotch, not steak.)  Those ended up in the Men’s Club liquor locker, to be trotted out during Simchat Torah, when it is traditional to drink until one cannot tell Genesis from Deuteronomy, and on random Sabbaths.  L’chaim!

Me and my Aberlour
Me and Mr. Aberlour. This bottle was the first to go. Ave atque (hic!) vale!  [Photo ©2013 Kissed with Light Photography, used with permission.]

Friday, September 27, 2013


“And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. And the LORD said unto him: ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

“And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; so the days of weeping in the mourning for Moses were ended. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face; in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land; and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.”  (Deuteronomy 34:1-12)

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

“And God said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

“And God said: ‘Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas; and God saw that it was good. And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.’ And it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

“And God said: ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

“And God said: ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.’ And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that creepeth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind, and every winged fowl after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

“And God said: ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after its kind.’ And it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. And God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed—to you it shall be for food; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.’ And it was so. And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

“And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.”  (Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-3)

Thus the cycle begins anew... for today, on the final day of the Red Sea Pedestrian Holiday Season, we conclude our reading of the Torah - the Pentateuch, AKA the Five Books of Moses - with the bittersweet valedictory of Moses, the man who would see the Promised Land from afar but who would never enter it himself, and immediately begin all over again with the great story of Creation.

Silly hats, dancing, and alcohol are all involved at this, the Rejoicing of the Law.  I suppose that’d make us lousy Baptists, except possibly the silly hats.

[Translations: Sefaria.org]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Yesterday evening, there was a report of a bear wandering around one of the subdivisions in northeast Cobb County.

Look, when the Mistress of Sarcasm reports having seen a bear in her back yard, I’m not all that surprised.  After all, she lives way up in the forested glens of upstate New York, where civilization is nought but a thin veneer.  Bears, turkeys, pheasants... hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sas-fucking-squatch ambling down Main Street in her itty bitty town.

But here?  This here’s Southern Fried Suburbia.  Visiting bears are an unusual, although not completely unknown, phenomenon.  Yeef!

And it gets worse.  In nearby DeKalb County, there’s a pack of marauding feral pigs that have been terrorizing the locals, who now fear for the safety of their children while they wait at the bus stop in the morning.  (Funniest part of that link might be the URL, which includes the string “wild-board-loose-dekalb.”  Look out for the wild board!)

Jebus Creepus!  Is it time to move?  What’s next?  Penguins?

“We gotta get outta here!”

Friday, September 20, 2013


Just as doctors must deal with unpleasant bodily fluids and plumbers must deal with shit, bloggers must deal with comment spam: comments that are placed solely for the purpose of disseminating links to various (mostly shady) websites. 

I love how comment spammers always manage to sound like the Festrunk Brothers.

Generally, I delete this crap without even looking at it, but this one struck me as amusing... mainly on account of the site it was trying to advertise.

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Gotta love that syntax!  “Hair removal from nose for men.”  Can “wax removal from ear for men” be far behind?

And the post this little gem was attached to?  This one... which makes me wonder whether nose hair is an especially serious issue in the Russian and/or Ukrainian immigrant community.  My guess would be yes.

Update:  And here’s another one that just landed on the same post, further supporting my Russian Facial Hair Thesis:

Wow, this post is pleasant, my younger sister is analyzing these things, thus I am going to tell her. Feel free to surf to my blog facial hair removal qvc

Spam!  Gotta love it.  No, wait.  I don’t gotta love it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This year, the first day of Sukkot, the joyous week-long fall festival celebrated by us Red Sea Pedestrians, coincides with International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  It’s also my birthday according to the Hebrew calendar.  Why, it’s a Seasonal Trifecta!

You know what that means...

Lulav and etrog, the symbols of Sukkot.

That’s right.  I’ll be in synagogue, darrrrh-vening, and waving my lularrrrhv.  Arrrrh!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Sarah Lewis Memorial G and T
The Sarah Lewis Memorial Gin & Tonic.

Alas, one of the unpleasant surprises of this year’s Penitential Season was the unexpected passing of our rabbi’s mother, who departed this world the Tuesday before Yom Kippur.

Instead of conducting services here, where he had not missed a Yom Kippur for 36 years, our rabbi found himself dealing with Matters Funerary in New Jersey.  After the holiday, he returned to Atlanta, where a packed house awaited him for evening services last night, giving congregants the opportunity to offer their condolences.

One of the stories he told about his late mother was that she had expressed an interest in trying out a cocktail that she had recently heard of, Gawd only knows where.  She was not a drinker by any means, but at the age of 92 she was ready to throw caution to the winds and try this Great New Thing... a Gin & Tonic.

Yes! A good old G&T!  (If you’ve never tried one, it’s new to you!)

The necessary supplies were procured, including a bottle of Gordon’s gin.  But alas, she passed away before she had a chance to taste of it.  (Given that the gin was Gordon’s, it is possible that she was better off.)

When we got home after that evening minyan, the Missus knew that it would be entirely appropriate to toast this extraordinary woman with the Gin & Tonic she should have had:   

The Best Honkin’ G&T Ever

1¾ ounce Nolet’s gin
½ ounce Jack Rudy tonic concentrate
Soda water

Combine the gin with the tonic concentrate in a highball glass with ice.  Add soda water; stir well.  Garnish with a slice of lime.

I love the way the Nolet’s plays off of the bitterness of the tonic.  You can use any brand you really like, of course, but since discovering Nolet’s, I have made it my go-to gin for this particular tipple.  And the Jack Rudy tonic has all sorts of subtle flavor notes that Schweppes tonic (a serviceable alternative) just does not bring to the table.

As for the late Sarah Lewis z’’l, ave atque vale!  May her memory be for a blessing... we’ll drink to that.


Old friends 
Old friends 
Sat on their park bench like bookends 
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass 
Falls on the round toes 
Of the high shoes 
Of the old friends 

Old friends 
Winter companions, the old men 
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun 
The sounds of the city sifting through trees 
Settles like dust 
On the shoulders 
Of the old friends 

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly 

How terribly strange to be seventy 

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

- Simon and Garfunkel, “Old Friends”

When this song came out in 1968, I was a mere sprat of not-quite-sixteen.  To me, seventy was a distant dream, an idea to be grasped with the intellect but not the emotions carved by lapidary years of experience.  “Old Friends,” from Simon and Garfunkel’s landmark Bookends album, seemed to paint a reasonable picture of seventy back then, when all of my grandparents were still walking the planet and my grandfathers were about that age.

But now here it is forty-five years later, and I call bullshit.  I don’t know if it’s because my perspective has changed - forty-five years will do that to you - or if it’s because the world is different, but when I think of being seventy, I don’t picture grizzled old men lost in their overcoats, sitting on park benches and watching newspapers blow around their blucher-shod feet.

I mean, seventy is me in a little over nine years.

I was ruminating on all of this because my friend Stefan just turned seventy today, and, as is the custom, he treated the Minyan Boyz to breakfast.  Stefan is no kid, mind you, but he doesn’t fit the image of the Grizzled Oldster all that well.  When people say “seventy is the new fifty” with whatever degree of irony or sarcasm they care to project, they could legitimately be thinking of Stefan, who still works full time running his business and who occasionally betrays traces of the mental hardness that comes from being a former MP.  (Military Police, not Member of Parliament.)

If that is what seventy is like, bring it on.  Fuck Simon and Garfunkel.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Take three minutes out of your life and watch this video.  Yes, it’s an ad... for a Thai telecommunications company, no less... but it’s an ad with a message that is especially poignant and powerful in the midst of the Red Sea Pedestrian Holiday Season.

Hollywood should only make movies this good.


[Here followeth a seasonally apropos guest post by Houston Steve... his very own 100-word story!]

Abe and Moishe were constantly at it.

The needling never stopped, and there was a wager on everything. Everything.

Who could eat the most herring at one sitting; who could eat more chrain without drinking water. And when autumn rolled around, Abe always took the bait.

It was a wager he knew he could never win, because Moishe was simply the better man when it came to carpentry. There was absolutely no way Abe was going to get his built faster; he was going to lose, and lose badly.

But that didn’t matter. Abe always fell for the Sukkah bet.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


What with Yom Kippur falling on its earliest possible date on the Gregorian calendar, we had a looooong day before the “fastivities” were finally over yesterday at 8:36 pm EDT.  (Since our services begin at the same time every year on the eve of the holiday, the extra sunlight simply meant a longer period of food and water denial.)

As has become our tradition, we took a light supper before the fast began: Big meal equals big hunger upon awakening in the morning.  A salad, some light protein - none of that tasty braised brisket, thank you! - and plenty of liquids, and we were good to go.

Romaine and Herb Salad
Romaine salad with dill, Greek basil, pine nuts, and dried cherries... it’s (mostly) what’s for dinner.

We arrived about fifteen minutes before the doors opened for afternoon services, queueing up with the regular group of early birds to ensure our snagging decent seats.  That was more an issue for the Missus and our friends, because I was not going to be doing a whole lot of sitting.  I was going to be leading the Kol Nidre service.

When it comes to religious pomp and circumstance, it’s hard to beat the Roman Catholic Church.  Only a week ago, we had attended the wedding of a daughter of some Friends of Long Standing, a wedding at which the Archbishop of Atlanta was the officiant.  But now it was our turn for pomp and circumstance, and Kol Nidre, the ceremonial renunciation of vows that kicks off the Day of Atonement, is about as pomply and circumstantial as we Red Sea Pedestrians get.  It’s really a reenactment of a Bet Din - an old-time rabbinical tribunal - with the intent of nullifying any sin resulting from unfulfilled vows between an individual and God.  Back in the day, such vows often consisted of things like forced conversions.  Inquisition much?

About fifteen minutes before the service began, we gathered in the executive offices for a final sip of water and a ceremonial shot of schnapps.   For me, a finger of Johnnie Walker Blue would fortify me for the task - and the lengthy fast - ahead. And then the service began with a procession of the congregation’s leaders, past and present, each carrying one of the sacred Torah scrolls in its snowy white mantle, as I announced that, by authority of the courts on high and below, and with the permission of the Almighty and that of the congregation, we were allowed to pray with those who have transgressed.  (Given that we are human, that covers pretty much everybody in the congregation.)

Standing in front of the congregation on the one night a year that we are guaranteed to have a packed house, and surrounded by the Torah-bearing elite, I chanted the ancient Aramaic formula... once, twice, thrice, concluding with “And thus spoke the Lord: I have forgiven according to your word.”

The evening was far from over.  There would be our congregational president’s speech, the evening service, a sermon, concluding prayers.  And the next day, there would be a full day’s worth of services... enough to keep my mind far away from the subject of eating and drinking.  (And if that did not suffice, there would always be the traditional Yom Kippur afternoon nap.)  But even from the outset, I felt as I always do on this holiest of days.  I felt renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on the new year.

May it be a good one for all of us.


Talisker Distiller's Edition
The remains of the day: The last dram from a fine bottle of Talisker Distiller’s Edition.

The Missus and I are engaged in a little project at the moment: converting our sunroom into a dining room, and vice versa.  Which means moving a whole bunch of furniture and associated objects, including my Little Lacquer Liquor Locker.

Alas, my inventory has far outstripped the storage capacity of said Locker.  The overflow has spilled over into the adjacent area... and that’s not counting the miscellaneous bottles kept in cold storage or in the basement.

I blame myself.  I am, after all, a bit of a Pack Rat, and I rarely will discard a bottle that has anything drinkable in it.  But today, we conducted a serious bit of triage.  All those rarely-used bottles of Rose’s HFCS-sweetened goop lurking way in the back - eighty-sixed.  Old bottles of vermouth?  Gone.  That 39-year-old bottle of crème de vanille I picked up in Tijuana?  Well, I’ll keep that - for now, anyway - but it goes into the basement, along with all the other arcana ’n’ exotica.  That way I’ll have room for my growing inventory of gin, rye, and single-malt Scotch.

Likewise, the glassware will be ruthlessly culled.  All those cobalt blue Margarita glasses that we never use?  Away with ye!  Champagne flutes?  To the basement with ye!

In the midst of all this liquorly pillage and rapine, I found the above bottle... a fine selection from the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye, hand-carried from Scotland by a good friend several years ago.  I had resisted draining the last few cc’s from that magnificent bottle, but it was, at last, time to send it to its final reward.

Ave (hic!) atque vale.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Churchy Panic
Churchy LaFemme, famous triskadeikaphobe. From an early 1970’s Pogo strip.

Churchy LaFemme, from the late, great comic strip Pogo, likely would be saying, “Gyack! Friday the 13th come on a Friday this month!”

Not only is it Friday the 13th, but it’s Erev Yom Kippur - the earliest the holiday has fallen on the Gregorian calendar in 114 years.  (Of course, according to the Hebrew calendar, it comes around on the same day every year - the 10th of Tishrei.)  At sundown today, we Red Sea Pedestrians observe our annual Atone-Fest, a 25+ hour day of fasting and soul-searching.  

By way of preparation, it doesn't hurt to cram in a few choons from the Little White Choon-Box.  So let’s see what’s playing, shall we?
  1. Gonzalogy - The Gonzalo Bergara Quartet

  2. What Would Brian Boitano Do? - Soundtrack, South Park - Bigger, Longer, Uncut

  3. What would Brian Boitano do
    If he was here right now?
    He’d make a plan, and he’d follow through,
    That’s what Brian Boitano’d do!

    When Brian Boitano was in the Olympics
    Skating for the gold,
    He did two salchows and a triple lutz
    While wearing a blindfold

    When Brian Boitano was in the Alps
    Fighting grizzly bears,
    He used his magical fire breath
    And saved the maidens fair

    So what would Brian Boitano do
    If he was here today?
    I’m sure he’d kick an ass or two,
    That’s what Brian Boitano’d do!

    I want this V-chip out of me,
    It has stunted my vo-ca-bu-lar-y.

    And I just want my mom
    To stop fighting everyone

    For Wendy I’ll be an activist too,
    ’Cause that's what Brian Boitano'd do.

    And what would Brian Boitano do,
    He’d call all the kids in town,
    And tell them to unite for truth
    That's what Brian Boitano’d do.

    When Brian Boitano traveled through time
    To the year 3010,
    He fought the evil robot king
    And saved us all again

    And when Brian Boitano built the pyramids,
    He beat up Kublai Khan,
    ’Cause Brian Boitano doesn’t take shit from anybody!

    So let’s all get together,
    And unite to stop our moms
    And we’ll save Terrance and Phillip too,
    Cause that’s what Brian Boitano’d do.

    And we’ll save Terrance and Phillip too,
    ’Cause that’s what Brian Boitano’d dooooo...
    ’Cause that’s what Brian Boitano’d do!

  4. At Least - Sticklips

  5. Der Bosfor - The Klezmer Conservatory Band

  6. Gangsters - The Specials

  7. Otherside - Red Hot Chili Peppers

  8. Vodou Adjae - Boukman Eksperyans

  9. The Intro and the Outro - Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

  10. Soir de Fête - Yann Tiersen, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

  11. Cette Nuit La - Les Chauds Lapins

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


“Laughter is the best medicine,” they told him in medical school, and he took that old adage seriously.

It was hard to laugh sometimes, though. His specialty, thoracic oncology, didn’t give him much to laugh about. His patients were, for the most part, in desperate straits, having smoked themselves into Big Trouble. To use Warren Zevon’s description, their shit was fucked up. Most of them had only a short, very uncomfortable future to look forward to.

But with his red clown nose and jocular manner, “Nicotine Patch” Adams could deliver both pills and puns, helping them laugh through the pain.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of May,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling?


And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

Leonard Cohen’s song “Who by Fire” is especially appropriate this time of year, in the midst of the Days of Awe.  It’s his take on the evocative U-netaneh Tokef prayer, a part of our High Holy Day liturgy that pictures the Almighty as a shepherd, watching his flock pass under his staff one by one as the fate of each is decided.

How many will pass on, and how many will be born;
Who shall live, and who shall die;
Who will enjoy long years, and who will die untimely;
Who by fire, and who by water;
Who by sword and who by beast;
Who by hunger, and who by thirst;
Who by earthquake, and who by plague;
Who by strangling, and who by stoning;
Who will be at peace and who will be troubled;
Who will be serene, and who disturbed;
Who will be tranquil, and who tormented;
Who will be impoverished, and who made wealthy;
Who will be brought low, and who will be raised up.

We are told that repentance, prayer, and charity avert the severe decree... but who really knows?

My own paraphrasing of the U-netaneh Tokef - there is a bit of the ol’ tongue in cheek, but not all that much - is here.  It is a prayer that resonates especially strongly with me, especially as I get older and see how Time works its will upon us all.

May you, Esteemed Reader, be spared the severe decree in the coming year... and may only good things come your way.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Chiogga and Golden Beet Salad
Roasted chioggia and golden beets with tarragon.  Doesn’t exactly scream Rosh Hashanah, does it?

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a holiday steeped in traditions, some dating back millennia.  Jews, observant and not-quite-so-observant, pack the synagogues, often seeing faces they only see once or twice a year.  They listen as the shofar - the ancient ram’s horn trumpet - is sounded, a clarion call to the conscience.  Seasonal greetings are exchanged, expressing wishes for a sweet year to come, for friends and family to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Our Rosh Hashanah meals, likewise, are steeped in tradition.  There’s the round loaf of challah, which (according to some) symbolizes the cyclical nature of eternity.  The apples and honey that accompany it signify our wishes for a sweet year to come. There’s gefilte fish, served with pungent chrein (horseradish) to both set the appetite and clear the sinuses.  Then comes the aromatic chicken soup, freighted with kneidlach - steaming matzoh balls.  But that is merely a prelude to the Main Event: a huge platter of braised beef brisket in its oniony gravy.  Tzimmes, a stew of carrots, prunes, and (sometimes) meat, is a side dish that sticks to the ribs... and for dessert, honey cake.

Getting up and walking around after a meal like that takes a mighty effort.  That, too, is a tradition.

This year’s menu was a bit different.

Sure, we had the roundel of challah.  This time, I made a pair of turban-shaped loaves with golden raisins.  Gawd’s streimel, if you will.  And of course, apples and honey.  There’s nothing that calls up Rosh Hashanah memories like a slice of apple dipped in honey, unless it’s a hunk of fresh-baked challah slathered in that golden sweetness.

But no gefilte fish this year.  Soup, yes - but in lieu of chicken soup, there was a chilled asparagus soup.  Not especially seasonal, but tasty nonetheless.

Mains?  Glad you asked.  This year, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook, I went all Middle Eastern.  Turkey burgers with zucchini and cumin, with a sumac and lemon sauce... and for the red meat fans, lamb meatballs with barberries, in a fig-shallot wine sauce and buried in fresh herbs.

By way of a vegetable, we had roasted chioggia and golden beets with fresh tarragon. And as a nod to the Old School, we had a potato kugel - what my grandmother would call a potato-nik.  The primary ingredients were grated potatoes and a pile of onions, the latter caramelized slowly in a metric buttload of oil.  While this was in the oven, the house smelled like Grandma’s apartment... and I mean that in the best possible way.  

Asparagus Soup
Chilled asparagus soup... a refreshing start to the meal.

Lamb Meatballs with Barberries and Herbs
Lamb meatballs with barberries and fresh herbs - mint, cilantro, dill, and tarragon. OK, so it’s not brisket.

For dessert, we had cut-up fruit and a raspberry-Campari sorbet honkin’ big cake, enough to send us stuffed and groaning to our beds.  (Hey, ya gotta hang on to some of the old traditions..)

Here at Chez Elisson, we enjoy doing things the tried-and-true way... but every so often it’s fun to mess with tradition.  Maybe even start a few new traditions - who knows?

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Boulevardier cocktail, presented in a vintage etched-glass coupe.

The fine fellow you see pictured above is a Boulevardier.

I first learned of his existence some months back, in an evening out with Houston Steve and our respective brides.  I had two... and that would have been enough all by themselves.  (Alas, we followed those up with a few Provençal Martinis after we arrived at our house.  Splendid days.)

If you combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a cocktail glass, you get a Negroni.  Swap out the gin for bourbon, and you have a Boulevardier: literally, a “man about town.”  What better tipple for Mister Debonair?


1½ ounces bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine with ice in a shaker; stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cherry.

When I made my Boulevardier, I used Knob Creek single barrel reserve bourbon, a ferociously potent base.  For the vermouth, I selected Carpano Antica Formula, made with a recipe that dates back to the eighteenth century.  And Campari is, of course, in a category by itself: With a squirt of soda water and a squeeze of lime, it’s SWMBO’s favorite apéritif.

It is, indeed, a perfect cocktail for the Man about Town.  And that’s no Boulshit.


Blueberry-Lime Ice Cream
Blueberry-Lime Ice Cream... tart and refreshing.

This time of year, with the Dog Days still upon us and a surfeit of tasty fruits and berries appearing in the produce aisles, is a perfect time to make frozen desserts.

I love the cold stuff.  Gelato.  Ice cream.  Sorbet.  Gawd, I can barely resist its siren song as I walk past the Ben & Jerry aisle, AKA the Valley of the Shadow of Fat-Ass.  But somehow I do.

These days, if I’m gonna eat a frozen dessert, I will generally make it at home... or eat one that my buddy Gary has made.  (I will make an exception for the gelato at Capogiro, which kicks the ass of any other frozen dessert like a red-headed stepchild.  Fortunately for my waistline, they are not local.)

This Blueberry-Lime Ice Cream recipe came my way courtesy of Serious Eats.  Our fridge had the requisite blueberries, but that is not what made me want to try this out - it was the fact that the recipe included cinnamon and star anise.  Wait, what?

Cinnamon and star anise.  I could only imagine the layers of flavor those bad boys would impart to this chilly treat... and so, out came the old ice cream maker.

Hoo HAH.

That’s all.  Hoo HAH.

Try not to lick your computer screen, willya?